Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace
Thanks to the attacking instincts of our defence, and the brilliant feather-light touch of Ozil, we swatted Palace aside in 22 minutes yesterday – then throttled back and watched the world go by. Stamping our authority on a game – how Iâ€™ve missed that.
We couldnâ€™t have asked for a better start to our post-Alexis future, though most teams will be less welcoming than Palace. Thatâ€™s not to put a negative slant on 22 minutes that were fluid, exciting and ruthless – and the rest of the game where we largely kept a shell-shocked Palace at armâ€™s length – so letâ€™s put that on the record. But trickier assignments will be round the corner.
A 4-1 win in most circumstances would be the talking point for several days, but such is the state of play at Arsenal this January itâ€™s already fading into the background. Thereâ€™s stuff rumbling along in every nook and cranny if you look hard enough.
Fixing the attack
One of the most interesting changes is whatâ€™s happening to our attack. Since the summer weâ€™ve sold Ox, Walcott and now Alexis – with Giroud potentially following them. Thatâ€™s not just tweaks – itâ€™s a complete clearout.
Itâ€™s classic Wenger too (or is it – more on that in a minute). We have a defence that canâ€™t keep clean sheets and, at times, is all over the place. We have a midfield that lacks brute power and numbers – so letâ€™s remodel the attack! It certainly has the stamp of Wenger all over it, but such is the intrigue at the club at the moment that you have to ask yourself how much of this evolution – or is it a revolution? – is coming from elsewhere within the club.
Youâ€™d be within your remit to wonder, too, how much of this is blind panic having mismanaged so much of whatâ€™s preceded it. Reaction, not proaction. It would be a fair conclusion to draw.
Whatever the cause, things are changing fast this month. Faster off the pitch than on it – and Iâ€™m all for it.
While Mkhitaryan gently weeps
Weâ€™ve said goodbye to Theo, weâ€™ve waved adieu to Coquelin and now weâ€™d bidden adios to Alexis. On the other side of the revolving door we say â€˜Bari galustâ€™ to Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who can play behind the striker, or on the wing. Who will he displace? Probably Iwobi at this stage, though your guess is as good as mine.
Whether heâ€™d have come to Arsenal in other circumstances is a moot point, but thatâ€™s how football works – circumstances dictate moves – they always have done.
Iâ€™m sad to see Alexis go and I will not lie. Heâ€™s been a pleasure to watch and was precisely the kind of player Arsenal needed. High intensity, hugely driven and a lethal goalscorer: a real stardust player in a team that hasnâ€™t seen many of those for some years. 80 goals in 3.5 years is very decent indeed. He was a big-game player, with many of his goals coming in big games on big occasions. Yes, nitpick if you want. He was careless with the ball. He was a bit disruptive. But Iâ€™d have a player like him in my squad any day.
Of course, reading between the lines, itâ€™s damning that he couldnâ€™t fulfil his ambitions with us, though itâ€™s nothing we havenâ€™t seen with our own eyes. Heâ€™s also going to earn eye-watering amounts of money, which only a few clubs can currently do. We arenâ€™t one of them.
Thanks Alexis for all youâ€™ve done – and youâ€™ll forgive me for hoping your best and most productive years were with us, not with your new employer.
Yin and Aubameyang
But thatâ€™s not all! Given that Wenger hates the merest whiff of player dissent (Szczesny dropped for having a tab in the shower, and was Walcott ostracised for saying â€˜they wanted it moreâ€™?), it seems surprising that heâ€™d entertain the thought of signing someone like Aubameyang. There are mixed reports about whether heâ€™s really that bad a character – but heâ€™s no Walcott.
And maybe thatâ€™s no bad thing, frankly. This squad could do with different characters. Either way, pitching for him makes sense as we need someone with some of that lost stardust, and heâ€™d definitely provide it. And we need to show our current squad – many of whom are stalling on new deals – Â that Arsenalâ€™s relative decline is not inevitable.
Would Giroud go the other way if it happened (still a big if)? It would make some sense – and would complete a huge turnaround in our attacking options.
Even if itâ€™s by accident rather than by design, these are shaping up to be interesting and exciting times.